How Do Flatworms Help Humans?

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Flatworms can be very harmful towards humans, but they can also be used to benefit humans by controlling invasive snails. Discover how flatworms are used in evolutionary studies to help people understand bivalves with help from a science tutor and field biologist in this free video on flatworms and biology.

Part of the Video Series: Statistics, Biology & Chemistry
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Video Transcript

Hi! I'm Brian with Today, we're going to discuss how flatworms are helpful to humans. So, flatworms are bilateral, bilaterally symmetrical, unsegmented organisms, and they don't have a distinct body cavity, and they don't have a separate anus and mouth or a gut. So, they're lacking some major things that we tend to associate with more developed organisms. They also are thin enough that they process oxygen by passing it through their outer membrane instead of having any sorts of gills or other processing systems. So, that's pretty interesting. Over half of all flatworms are parasitic, and some of them have major harmful effects on humans. One really good example of a harmful flatworm is schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever. Schistosomiasis tends to wreck havoc in places with lower sanitation levels and I personally have also gotten schistosomiasis. So, I know and I'm familiar with flatworms, but flatworms are used sometimes to benefit humans as well. There are two major ways that they're being used. First of all, flatworms are being used to control invasive snails. So, in Hawaii there's the snail that's been introduced, I believe it's an African snail and it doesn't have any predators, it doesn't have any sorts of control, so it's trying to cause a lot of problems. They've introduced a certain type of flatworm and it actually preys upon that snail, and is helping to control that invasive population. It's been used, flatworms are being used in similar contacts in other situations to control invasive species, so that's one way. The other way is that flatworms are being used to study the evolution of bivalves, and evolution of a through-gut. So, a difference between a mouth and an anus. So, they're being used in evolutionary studies as well. This has been a brief discussion of how flatworms who are usually considered harmful can actually benefit humans.


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